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Uncle Ted McCarrick: Queen Pin of the Lavender Mafia

What can we say? It is now becoming universally apparent that what was once called the “clerical sex-abuse crisis” is actually a much broader and more sordid affair. As if a Catholic priest’s sexually abusing minors weren’t evil enough in and of itself, we came to learn that these abuser priests, when caught, weren’t handed over to law-enforcement officials or disciplined in any meaningful way by their bishops. Instead, bishops transferred abuser priests from parish to parish or diocese to diocese, turning these predators into serial offenders — a scandal of the highest order.

Veteran NOR readers will hardly be surprised to hear that there’s more to the story. Yes, it gets worse. We identified the problem — the root cause of all the clerical sex-abuse scandals — in these pages more than 15 years ago as the “Lavender Mafia.” Believe it or not, that moniker was coined by liberal Chicago priest and popular novelist Fr. Andrew Greeley, an unlikely critic of what he once described as a network of homosexual priests and bishops who promoted one another, supported one another, and covered up one another’s crimes. We’re not talking about homosexual clerics who choose to live chastely; we’re talking about those who actively embrace the homosexual lifestyle. “It is from the ranks of these priests that most (not all, admittedly) of the abuse cases have arisen,” said Catholic apologist Karl Keating (as quoted in our New Oxford Note “Why Won’t Our Bishops Solve the ‘Gay’ Priest Problem?” Jul.-Aug. 2004). “The priestly scandal has not been so much about priests abusing children as about homosexual priests acting out their homosexuality with teenagers and young adults.”

This is an important point — a very important point — to acknowledge when seeking to understand the abuse problems that have plagued the Church in recent decades. It was explored in depth by NOR Associate Editor Michael S. Rose in his book Goodbye, Good Men (2002) and again by Philip F. Lawler in The Faithful Departed (2010). The Lavender Mafia controlled the vocations offices, seminaries, and chanceries of many dioceses, right up to the office of the bishop. (Alas, this is still true in some places.) They functioned as gatekeepers, facilitating a culture of gross sexual immorality and a self-preserving protective network formed around that immorality. Anyone who objected to this mission was ostracized, rejected, or dismissed. Those complicit in the prevailing agenda were given preferential treatment. It’s really as simple as that.

By now, most readers will have heard of the revelations concerning Theodore Cardinal McCarrick. After the now-retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., was named in an abuse complaint this summer, stories about his checkered background flooded news outlets and blogs the world over. We have The New York Times to thank for this. Although far from perfect in its journalistic integrity over the years, the Times did its job on this one. The article that burst the dam (“American Cardinal Accused of Sexually Abusing Minor Is Removed from Ministry,” June 20) reported that an investigation by the Archdiocese of New York uncovered “credible allegations” that McCarrick had “sexually abused a teenager” while serving as an archdiocesan priest and secretary to Terence Cardinal Cooke. According to the report, the abuse started in 1971, when the young man was a 16-year-old student at Cathedral Prep Seminary in Manhattan and planning to become a priest; McCarrick forcibly assaulted him in the cathedral sacristy, in the bathroom, and elsewhere.

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